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Gauke presses ahead with Universal Credit rollout

David Bicknell Published 02 October 2017

Work and Pensions secretary rejects calls for rollout pause but promises new guidance to DWP staff over possibility of giving advance payments for some claimants

 

Work and Pensions secretary David Gauke has rejected calls for a pause in the introduction of Universal Credit and said the rollout will continue as planned.

At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Gauke said the rollout will stick to the planned timetable, despite appeals for a delay that included a call from over a dozen Tory MPs.

The MPs had raised concerns with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that claimants were being forced to use food banks because of a mandatory wait of up to six weeks to receive their money. One of the MPs, Heidi Allen, had called on the Prime Minister to intervene.

Gauke told the conference that the Universal Credit benefits system, which rolls together six benefits (including unemployment benefit, tax credits and housing benefit) into one, online system, “is working. So I can confirm that the rollout will continue, and to the planned timetable.”

He said, “We’re not going to rush things; it is more important to get this right than to do this quickly, and this won’t be completed until 2022. But across the country, we will continue to transform our welfare system to further support those who aspire to work.”

However, Gauke said he would be “refreshing the guidance” to staff at DWP over the possibility of giving advance payments to claimants in difficulty.

“Claimants who want an advance payment will not have to wait six weeks, they will receive this advance within five working days. And if someone is in immediate need, then we fast-track the payment, meaning they will receive it on the same day,” he promised.

The pressure for a pause to the rollout follows a call in July from the Citizens Advice organisation which said Universal Credit should he halted “until significant problems with it are fixed.” It said in a report, ‘Delivering on Universal Credit’ that the requirement to wait six weeks for any payment means people face serious financial insecurity, with many being forced into debt.

It said it had identified a number of administrative challenges, including problems with the online system and long waits to get help over the phone.

The parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee is conducting an inquiry into Universal Credit’s rollout, with a deadline for written submissions of Friday October 13.








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